Getting Started With Real-Time Analytics

While many marketers are still learning to be data-driven and hire the right people, those who are advanced are continually adopting new tools and processes to refine what they do.

An emerging area of analytics that’s frequently mentioned but equally misunderstood is real-time.

Real-time use case is across industries — as everyone has events that they have triggered or marketing tactics with a temporal nature. All such items offer opportunities for real-time analysis.

Areas within an organization that benefit from real-time

  • Marketing: Diagnostic uses of campaigns, real-time capitalization on trends / events, showcasing success to stakeholders.
  • IT: Diagnostics / troubleshooting of sites, watching real-time in tandem with other metrics such as server load during anticipated spikes.
  • Customer service: During a crisis or customer service issue at scale, may monitor use of site content and ensure they have the correct response which is findable.
  • PR: Real-time content creation to capitalize on breaking news, events, showcasing success.

Sample use-cases of real-time

Real-time is the ultimate diagnostic tool: Digital marketing is a complex set of interconnected systems: an engineering problem essentially. Search engines, web content, social networks, etc: and when you deploy stuff it’s easy to get things wrong, but not always easy to understand what. The ability to see things in real-time can help provide a quick diagnostic view (answers the question: how did the system react to that instantly?). A simple example of this is to make sure campaign tracking is correctly implemented before launching a campaign. With real-time reports you can find out in seconds whether you’re getting the data you want in analytics.

Real-time provides alerting / intelligence: giving insight into things that are new or different in addition to taking advantage of 1-1 marketing.

Real-time can let you win social by capitalizing on trending topics: as the web continues to move to focus on streams, understanding how to interpret this data becomes important. Observe, understand, act (i.e., if you observed you were starting to “go hot” on Google+, Twitter or Reddit, you could analyze why and react by pouring fuel on the fire by quickly turning on paid tactics or ask influencers to re-share — gaining a multiplier effect. There is a very limited window to accomplish this and agility is key).

Real-time on-display during special events or at offices: helps add energy / excitement to an office environment and can also act as social proofing to show popularity or marketing success.

Example: Reddit showing real-time traffic peaking during AmA with President Obama on their office large screens(AmA = ask me anything, basically Reddit’s form of crowdsourced Q&A):

Additional potential use cases:

  • Segment and get more real-time data for larger sites
  • Double-check new profiles work faster
  • Create profiles for specific, short-term promotions
  • Create profiles for email or other recurring campaigns you might want to see in real-time
  • Test virtual pageviews / other custom code faster
  • Perfect timing on social sharing of content

Some key metrics to look at in real-time

These metrics are specific to Google Analytics real-time reports, but certainly can apply across tools:

  • Visitors on site right now [new, returning]
  • Pageviews [per minute, per second]
  • Top Referral sources
  • Top Active Pages [page / # Active Visitors per page]
  • Top Pages by page views past 30 minutes
  • Top Social Traffic [source / # Active Visitors]
  • Top Keywords [Keyword / Active Visitors]
  • Top Locations [Country / Active Visitors]
  • Total Active Cities

Quick wrap-up

The web is getting faster, and not just the speed of the pages, but also the speed of change. Before, it was fine to build a website and modify it only when new products were launched. All of us avid analytics users know that’s just not enough. We need to be constantly on the lookout for problems and opportunities as they happen. This is what real-time can enable.

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